$35 billion Omnicom-Publicis mega-merger may be called off

New York

The planned $35 billion merger of Omnicom Group of the United States and Publicis Groupe of France to create the world’s biggest advertising group ahead of WPP is said to have been called off.

Omnicom and Publicis would not comment but several news reports said the merger fell apart due to a clash of personalities and culture, disagreements over executive roles and integration strategy, as well as legal, regulatory and tax complications.

Maurice Levy, chief executive of Paris-based Publicis, and John Wren, his counterpart at New York-based Omnicom, have been wrestling with many issues involved in the complex merger proposal, including the choice of chief financial officer.

In April, WPP chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell mocked rivals Publicis and Omnicom over the tax problems they were having with their delayed mega-merger, saying “it’s turning into a soap opera”.

Levy and Wren announced their ambitious “merger of equals” plan last July, but recently they were forced to admit that it was taking longer than expected to persuade regulators in France, the UK, the Netherlands and China about the deal.

Sorrell told the Evening Standard: “It’s turning into a soap opera. Clearly John Wren and Maurice Levy are unhappy with each other. If you listen to the two first-quarter conference calls, it was like two ships passing in the night.

“Levy said there was only one tax problem — with the French. Wren a couple of days later contradicted him.”

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